Sailing the “Uncharted Waters” of 2010 & Beyond with the Lord of the Seas!
This past Sunday, preaching from Isaiah 43, I shared with our congregation at Elk Creek that God promises to carry us through rough waters. Some, if not many, of us though mistake His promise to carry us “through the waters … through the fire” as a guarantee that we’ll never even SEE or experience rough waters or fiery trials.
I was amazed to discover the latest offering of cruise ships from Royal Caribbean, the Oasis of the Seas. It dwarfs a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, stands taller than a 20-story building and can carry 8,000 people - it isn’t a boat; it’s a floating city for cryin’ out loud! It’s the largest, tallest, widest, heaviest and costliest passenger ship ever built. It’s six massive generators/engines produce enough electricity to light up over 100,000 homes. The Atlantic magazine quotes a spokesperson describing the Oasis as “… a celebration of excess(emphasis mine) … packed with glitzy amenities and attractions of the sort usually associated with Las Vegas.”
When we read/hear the words of the prophet Isaiah, “… this is what the LORD says … He who created you … Fear not, for I have redeemed you … you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you … when you walk through the fire, you will not be harmed …” (43:1-2) - we discover not a celebration of excess but a celebration of creation and redemption! Each one of us, individually and collectively, is worth much more than $1.4 billion Oasis - “… you are precious and honored in My sight, and … I love you” (43:4)!
But we don’t live in a perfect world. As much as cruise-ship builders might try to create a picture of paradise, the harsh truth of reality is that we live in a broken creation. We sin against God and each other. We indulge our selfish desires; bringing hurt to others, thinking that what we’re doing - or failing to do - doesn’t have any impact on anybody else but ourselves. In turn, we fall victim to the evil of others. So, it’s no wonder that we need to be redeemed.
That’s why the Lord of the Seas comes to us to rescue - to redeem - us back from the captivity and destruction of sin and the way it “sabotages” our chances at health, happiness and wholeness.
But, just as Lynn Anderson sang so many years ago “I never promised you a Rose Garden”, the Lord of the Seas does not promise you and I that we will never face rough waters. Being a Christian doesn’t mean cruising on the Oasis of the Seas but sailing with the Lord of the Seas. On board with God isn’t a guarantee that you’ll never get seasick. You can still be hit by an enormous wave of illness, a cold Northwesterly of betrayal, a tidal change of Tsunami proportions in the economy or a strong current of temptation with what feels like an inescapable undertow.
The promise - the guarantee - is not that our sailing will always be smooth … but that our Captain will always be with us.
The great Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy, once said, “If you are not happy with your life, you can change it in two ways: either improve the conditions in which you live, or improve your inner spiritual state. The first is not always possible, but the second is.” We will and do face many situations and conditions upon which we cannot improve or possibly try to control. But the Lord of the Seas promises us that we will not be overwhelmed - no matter how the waves may crash around us.
Some years ago, on a hot summer day in South Florida, a little boy decided to go to the old swimming hole behind his house. In a hurry to dive into the cool water, he ran out the back door, leaving behind shoes, socks and shirt as he went. He flew into the water, not realizing that as he swam toward the middle of the lake, an alligator was swimming twoard the shore. The boy’s father, working in the yard, saw the two get closer and closer together. In utter fear, he ran toward the water, yelling to his son as loudly as he could.
Hearing his dad’s voice, the little boy became alarmed and made a U-turn to swim to his father. It was too late. Just as he reached his father, the alligator reached him. From the dock, the father grabbed his little boy by the arms just as the alligator snatched his legs, which began an incredible tug-of-war between the two. The alligator was much stronger than the father, but the father was much too passionate to let go.
A farmer happened to drive by, heard the screams, raced from his truck with a rifle and shot the alligator. Remarkably, after weeks and weeks in the hospital, the little boy survived. His legs were extremely scarred by the vicious attack. And on his arms were deep scratches where his father’s fingernails dug into his flesh in an effort to hang on.
A newspaper reporter who interviewed the boy after he came home from the hospital asked if he would mind showing him his scars. The boy lifted his pant leg - and then, with obvious pride, he said to the reporter, “But that ain’t nuthin’ - I’ve got great scars on my arms, too, because my dad wouldn’t let go!”